Nowhere does it say that a good smartphone must cost more than $150. And these days, there isn’t as much difference between an entry-level and high-end phone, save for processor, camera, and display specs. Motorola’s second-generation Moto E’s display isn’t as large or assharp as the Moto X, Motorola’s flagship smartphone, and the Moto E ($149) isn’t adorned
in premium materials like leather, teak, or bamboo,
either. But if you just need a solid phone that lets you
browse the Web and stream your media over LTE,
without taking out a loan, the Moto E is an excellent
Design, Features, and Call Quality
At 5.11 by 2.63 by 0.48 inches
(HWD) and 5.11 ounces, the soft-touch, matte plastic Moto E feels relatively thick and somewhat heavy. Yet, it makes for a solid feel that’s satisfyingly comfortable to hold and use—no doubt aided by the curved back, rounded edges, and balanced weight distribution.
The Power button and rocker-style volume button on the right edge provide light clicky feedback, but still
feel mushy. A tiny notch on the phone’s bottom left lets you peel away the removable plastic accent border
surrounding the phone, revealing microSD and mini SIM card ports on the left edge. It’s an ingenious design that lets you easily access those ports, as well as customize the phone with accent borders in different colors.
The second-generation Moto E gets a 0.2-inch screen upgrade, bringing it up to 4.5 inches, though resolution remains at just 960 by 540 pixels (256 ppi)—not particularly sharp, but
suitable for a smartphone at this price point.
With 8GB internal memory, 3.42GB of storage was available out of the box. That limits how many apps you can
install, some which can be more than 1GB each. The Moto E’s microSD card slot supports cards up to 32GB;
and our 32GB Lexar card worked just fine. But as usual, that extra storage can only be used for your media, not
Performance and Android
Inside the second-gen Moto E, there’s a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 with 1GB RAM. That’s a major upgrade from its predecessor’s Snapdragon 200 processor, and a minor jump from the Moto G (LTE)’s Snapdragon 400, which is also found on many entry-level and midrange smartphones.
In synthetic benchmarks, the Moto E gives the Google Nexus 5 a run for its money, and even beats the Nexus 5’s also-aging Snapdragon 800 processor on several benchmark tests.
The Alert app may interest parents looking at the Moto E for their children’s first smartphone, as it sends periodic location notifications to trusted contacts when activated.
It also incorporates a sort of geofencing feature for when the Moto E nears designated locations, like Home, Work, or School.
The Moto E’s 2,390mAh battery lasts for 5 hours, 59 minutes while streaming continuously from YouTube at 4G, after which Android’s 10-percent battery alert pops up. The
phone’s screen brightness was set to maximum, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth was turned off. That’s a great result, beating the 2014 Moto G LTE and even putting the iPhone 6’s four-and-a-half hour result to shame.
Camera and Conclusion
The Moto E’s 5-megapixel rear-facing camera lacks a flash. And unfortunately, picture quality hasn’t improved since the first-generation phone. Outdoor shots showed slightly washed out colors in my tests, while soft details lacked clarity. Indoor performance was similar, but with added noise and softness. It’s a serviceable camera if all you need is a visual record of something where quality isn’t paramount.
Video resolution has also been upgraded to 720p at 30fps, compared with last year’s model’s 480p at 25fps. It’s a considerable improvement that’s fine for a $150 phone.
It’s perfectly suitable for video social media sharing services, like Snapchat stories or Vines, although the
similarly priced Infosonics Verykool S505 Spark is capable of 1080p30 video recording.
The Moto E’s front-facing camera’s VGA quality is noisy, grainy, and severely lacks in the detail department.
Selfie-enthusiasts will want to look elsewhere. Motorola also added its double twist-of-the-wrist feature to bring up the camera, even when the Moto E is locked. Along with the processor upgrade, at least it makes for a snappy photo-taking experience.